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Undergraduate Student

Alex Pelletier

Fish Conservation

Expected Graduation Date: May or December 2016


By my sophomore year of high school, I knew I wanted to study something related to biology, chemistry, or physics. I also knew I wanted to split my time between a shirt and tie and rubber waders rather than wearing a lab coat and goggles. I decided majoring in some sort of environmentally focused major would be the best way to make the outdoors my office, but I was hesitant to study fisheries because I didn’t want my passion for fishing to become “work.” After researching descriptions of fisheries biologist jobs and realizing there was much more to it than just fishing, I decided to apply for a spot in the Virginia Tech Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation.

Upon completion of my Fisheries Techniques class in fall 2013, my professor, Dr. Leandro Castello, invited me to conduct research with him. During the summer after sophomore year, I began researching spatial and temporal trends of mercury concentrations in Russian arctic Burbot. I have analyzed mercury concentrations in more than 2,100 Burbot from eight Russian Arctic rivers over 21 years, and I am now collaborating with Dr. Castello’s colleagues in Canada, Europe, and Russia to prepare a manuscript for publication. Being first author on a project with researchers who are much older and wiser than myself has taught me that there is more to leading than simply having experience. Joining the Leadership Institute will help me refine my communication skills and help me gain confidence in my role as first author with my colleagues.

In high school I also began developing a passion for teaching. I tutored an eighth grade student who missed many weeks of school with illness, an experience that showed me how rewarding it is to teach others about something you find interesting or important. After taking my rst two years in college to focus on schoolwork, I was hired in fall 2014 as a tutor for Virginia Tech student-athletes. In my first year, I clocked more than 300 hours with 30 students in calculus, biology, organic chemistry, and statistics. Teaching so many students in drastically different classes has taught me how to communicate complex ideas to people of various backgrounds and experiences. I joined the Leadership Institute in hopes of gaining valuable skills I can practice in the classroom with my students so I may continue giving back to the Hokie community. Tutoring student- athletes has been far and away the most rewarding experience I have ever had, and I look forward to learning more about how I can become an effective leader for my students as a teacher, as a mentor, and perhaps one day as a university professor.

Area of Speciality

Freshwater Fish Conservation

Honors and Awards

  • Fralin Life Science Institute Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF)
  • Cunningham University Honors 4-Year Scholarship
  • Henry S. Mosby Scholarship
  • Presidential Global Scholars Study Abroad Scholarship
  • Thomas H. Jones Scholarship

25th Anniversary

Celebrating 25 Years

    1992 through 2017, 25 years

Join us Sept. 15-16 to visit campus and reconnect with alumni, faculty, staff, and friends.

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Read the Summer Newsmagazine

    CNRE Newsmagazine Spring 2017


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